There is no such thing as the “ideal” church planter. Not every pastor is a church planter, nor should they be. In the face of Scripture, there seems to be a variety of gifted people who cultivate and plant, some water, some fertilize, but it is always God who ultimately gives he increase. Humanly speaking, the role of a church planter plays the most important part of the success of the church plant. There are no perfect models for the church planter as God continually seeks to do his work with imperfect, weak, and often humanly “disabled” people. However, it is good to recognize some important marks that will help a church planter understand how he is wired to do the work that God has called him to. The desire to plant a church is often not enough, it takes some key qualities that will help the overall success. It is vital that a church planter have a proper assessment of his own personal skills, character, and ministry skills that will help him or hinder him in the process of planting a church.
His life and profile
Once it is understood where you are going we then ask ourselves—“How do we get there?” As in everything else in live, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” It begins with the person whom God would call into the position of church planter. This is the starting point in any church-planting endeavor. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles is a historical account of church planters starting churches who then in turn started churches. It is a picture and pattern for churches today. It wasn’t a mere single effort, but in fact, an entire movement that we see unfolds from the very beginning to early stages of development. In this movement, God used imperfect men who were uniquely gifted or “wired” to do the work of pioneer church planting.
Acts 13 gives us some good insight as to how God seeks out His men and puts them into the work He has called them. Later in the epistles, God brings to clarity the character of an elder and deacon. Notice some key observations from Acts 13:
• They were already ministering. V. 2 – “while they were ministering….”
• They were Spirit Called and Sent. Vv. 2,4
• They were man sent as well! V. 3
What is unfolding here in begins to pick up tempo as these men go into different cities where God is at work bringing in new believers. In Acts 14:21-23 we see the process of church planting beginning to grow. They began to appoint elders in every church and they were off to begin again where God was directing.
By the time we get to the Epistles, God fine tunes what He is looking for as the righteousness of Christ works its way out of a transformed heart and into a life that is transformed. It takes special shape and form that affects every area of his life.
Scripture says that our life is an aroma of Christ to God among people (2 Cor 2:15-17). This aroma has a certain impact whether it is a fresh and floral aroma—full of life, or it is the aroma of death and decay. So, it is no wonder that when God talks about what really qualifies a pastor, He begins with the very inner life of a man. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 God outlines His qualifications for pastors.
His Character – While there are some things that can be shaped through circumstances and trials, the raw materials of a Godly character must be in place as this will spill into every area of the church. The church-planter then must exhibit as the foundation of his life these qualities. Notice the areas of life they cover:
1. Broad umbrella character quality of blamelessness
2. Blameless in Moral Character
3. Blameless in Home Life
4. Blameless in Spiritual Maturity
5. Blameless in Public Life
Statistics say that by the time a pastor is in his fifth year, the congregation begins to take on his personality and character. A man who exhibits godly character is the foundation then for the entire church. This kind of character that exhibits itself in transparency and integrity earns the respect of people and produces a trust that begins to build up a leadership that exemplifies Christ in every respect. Paul speaks of this kind of leadership in 1Thessalonians 2:2-6. Paul exemplified a heart that was open and transparent and spoke of the motives that showed themselves in character.
Motives – We get a peek at what is going on under Paul’s heart.
• Spread the Gospel – V. 2
• Please God – V.4
• Tell what needed to be heard – V.5
• To Serve God – V.5
Character – Motivations, passions, and drives always show up in character.
• Courage – V.2
• Endurance – V.2
• Integrity – V.3 – freedom from error; purity of motive, and honesty
• Gentleness – V.7
• Affection – V.7
His Family – Nowhere does one’s theology show itself more clear than in the home. This is why God says that if an elder cannot take care of his house, how can he take care of the house of God (1Timothy 3:5)?
1. His Relationships – How he treats the very up-close relationships in his life will tell you volumes how he will treat the relationships in his own house. God looks at each part as being important and linked together these relationships can give you an overall view of His own personal relationship with God.
a. Relationship with his wife. Is there good communication, genuine warmth, careful care and sensitivity to her and her needs. Does he shield her and protect her? Does he value her opinion on life and ministry? Does he belittle her, keep her at arms length, allow her to have to lead because he follows?
b. Relationship with his children. Does he know his children? Is he sensitive to their needs and seek to be the provider and protector in way that clearly articulates God’s provision and protection of His children? Is he aloof to their behavior thus, making the wife do the work of discipline and teaching?
c. Relationship to his own parents/in-laws. How does he handle these important relationships? Is there a strain in their communication and in their dealings with each other and the grand kids?
2. His approach to life – By this, I mean what is his overall attitude toward life? This may overlap somewhat with the discussion to follow on personality, but I am speaking in general terms. Is the cup half empty or half full—all the time? Is he a whining, complaining, negative sort of person, or is there sense of reality that he lives with. This is vital for a church planter. The pioneer cannot be one who often gets dismayed, discouraged, or disgruntled.
3. His personality – By this, I mean what is his overall personality type? I know there are personality tests that help determine this. There are two of them that could be helpful:
• Personal Profile System (DiSC)
• Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
There are two important aspects about the assessment of him as a person:
1. Does he see himself accurately? Is he a person of truth for his own life?
2. Does he easily submit to how others assess him? Is there humilty?
The church planter has no magic wand or special blessing that others should seek. Instead, he is a man that God has His hand on, others see this work of God in him, and with these capabilites obvious, he does as God directs him–and plants a church!